Old clogs used for advertising pewter workshop at Zaanse Schans,23/3/2012
The Netherlands was a destination that almost wasn't because it was not on my original itinerary. It must therefore be in the stars that I was to attend the last miniature fair at Arnhem. How else to explain the congruent of the unexpected and the conspiracy of workload causing my housemates to back out of going to Europe with me? This was a trip we had wanted to make since 2010 when we promised Rosanna that we would meet again in 2 years.
On the external wall of Museum of Clog-Making, Zaanse Schans
The grand tour, when my housemates and I planned it just 2 months before, was to be Milan-Genoa-Lichtenstein-Berlin-Gdynia-Krakow-Prague. It was not to be a trip about miniatures or dolls' houses or anything remotely 1:12 since I was travelling with non-miniphile or others who don't love miniatures the way we do. I did however email 4 blog friends about this trip to see if we could meet.
Museum of Clog-Making, Zaanse Schans
The night my housemates broke the news to me, I wrote to the same friends again with a bit of a heavy heart, unsure if I should go anyway. I guess I was not prepared to give up on the trip and needed only a little push to convince myself I could do it alone. I didn't get a little push.
At an antique store, Zannse Schans
Instead, they all replied within 24 hours giving me an overwhelming yessssssssssss, come at once or just pack your luggage no matter what. The funniest was do you want to be responsible for making her cry her eyes out? I did not hesitate after that. I also knew then that I must go to Barcelona then to Genoa and somehow make my way to Wankendorf and then Gdynia so that I could give these 4 girls the Susan Tay hug of the century.The flurry of emails followed and I started plotting the dots of where my friends lived on the map of Europe.
Wrought iron grille on door of house, Koog Zaandjik
Quite naturally, my Europe 2012 tour became a miniphile-centric one, going where my miniphile friends were, all of them but two I had never met. Remember my passport cover? It was really a case of not knowing where, what, who or even when to expect. But did I care? Of course not. I was capable of feeling only thrills and excitement.
Toy Windmill in a planter-Zaanse Schans
About a week into the planning, Rosanna, who would go to Germany with me, asked if I wanted to go to the Dollhouse Show in Arnhem. Luck would have it that the show was to happen in between Genoa and Germany, in terms of both location and timing. Truly, it was a dream come true and needless to say, my yes to Rosanna was said in a heartbeat. That was how The Netherlands became the midway point of this trip. Barcelona-Terrassa-Genoa-Amsterdam-Arnhem-Wankendorf-Gdyia-Krakow.
on Sylvia's bedroom wall and loving that pull switch-23rd Mar 2012
Once we confirmed that we would be travelling to Amsterdam, Rosanna wrote to Sylvia who very kindly offered to house us on the 1st day when we arrived. Playing the perfect host, Sylvia took a train to meet us at the airport in Amsterdam. The picture she took of us just as we came out of custom promptly appeared that evening on her blog.
Details of Sylvia's 1:12 Cafe, Chez Lotje
Sylvia's home in Almere was like a destination unto itself for a miniphile and an interior buff. Going through her work was like visiting a model museum. I have followed Sylvia's work closely shortly after I started blogging and in early 2009 actually featured her blog on a post because I fell in love with her Room of An Alcoholic. In fact, almost exactly 3 years ago on 9th April 2009, Sylvia posted about both Rosanna's and my gifts in the same post. Mine were a pair of cranes that flew in to Netherlands from Singapore. Imagine 3 years later, the same girls flew in to meet her for real!
22nd March 2012 was spent walking around her estate, visiting some of the best spots for shopping in my whole trip. Sylvia prepared tea and then a simple but lovely dinner and in between, Rosanna and I went shopping again at the craft shop a stone's throw away from Sylvia's home. I bought a jig saw and Sylvia also gave me one of her smaller ones, tools I could not find at home. The rest of the evening till bedtime, the 3 of us chatted and shared our lives. It might just be that one conversation but it was one I would always remember. Sylvia is an extraordinary woman, just like her art.
Science Center Nemo, a building that's shaped like a ship-Amsterdam
The next morning, we left for Amsterdam after breakfast, knowing that we would see Sylvia again in Arnhem. I had heard so much about this city, from the pretty to the seedy but mainly I knew I was going to get my mini and architectural-fix here. That was why right after we checked into the hotel, Rosanna and I made our way to the Openbare (remember this name) Biblioteek Amsterdam or the Amsterdam Public Library.
Details of Karina Schaapman's Mouse Mansion
That was where the mouse mansion was and I wanted to see it so much. Many of you would have heard of this mouse house and like me, loved it to bits. No matter what genre, style or scale you are into, this house appeals. As far as I am concerned, it is also a dollhouse builder's dream. 100 or more rooms with 10000000s of details and you can keep going if you want. This is a house I will never be tired of.
3D paper windmill farmhouse, Zannse Schans
By the time we left the library, it was past 11. We quickly made our way to the train station at Amsterdam Central to catch the metro to Zaanse Schans, a 20 minute ride away. Sylvia had told us the night before that this was a must see, even for the Dutch people. It was also where Sabiha, Mercedes and her had spent a day when Mercedes visited them last year.
Cake Shop - Koog Zaandijk
Lifestyle Shop at Koog Zaandijk
The charm started almost right after we alighted from the train at Koog Zaandijk. There were pretty shops every two houses and nowhere else spelt Spring like the doorsteps of these houses.
Outside the Lifestyle shop- Koog Zaandijk
Flower shop at Koog Zaandjik
In front porch of a house- Koog Zaandjik
On an urn of nest next to a chair- Koog Zaandjik
Just another pretty planter -Koog Zaandjik
There were flowers, flowers, flowers, some of them going for a song, including the pots they came in. They were so cheap and so pretty, they almost made Rosanna cry. No wonder the Dutch are so home proud if nature's beauty comes to them in such abundance and for so little. Beauty is in every little detail of their lives, and
Lunch at D' Vijg Broers
even in a salad meal, you see art. And because we stopped for lunch before we crossed the bridge to Zaanse Schans, we met yet another beauty.
Frigate that parted the bridge before Zaase Schans
As we watched the frigate sailed in, a siren sounded and the stop lights at the bridge came on. The bridge opened like the red sea parting to allow the vessel through. It was such a sight to behold, Rosanna and I felt like we had struck the lottery for picturesque prize of the year. It put us in the mood for more beautiful sights and we were not disappointed. Zaanse Schans was so satisfying that we thought if you have only 1 day to spare in Holland, this was where you should visit. Zaanse Schans deserves a post on its own and that is what I will do in my other blog. I will also post pictures of another great outdoor museum that Birgit brought us.
Window Display Near Amsterdam Central
In the meantime, our tour of Amsterdam was coming to a close and tired as we were, Rosanna and I knew we must see Amsterdam by night. This was to be our last night in Holland. We were to leave for Arnhem the next day and after the fair, we would then catch the night train to arrive at Neumunster where we hoped Birgit would be waiting.
I must admit I was really curious about the nightlife of Amsterdam, in particular the seedier side of town. So although we were warned by Sylvia to be careful only about 100 times when we were there, Rosanna and I bravely ventured, with our hands wrapped tightly around our bags and eyes darting everywhere for baddies and turning back every so often to make sure we were not followed. We were walking briskly and barely talking for almost 3 hours.
We weaved through lanes and walked along the channel, passed by shops and even stopped at the square. At the turn of each corner, I was expecting a shocking window of naked ladies or maybe a dirty heap of half smoked joints, even the chance to be horrified by some XXX pictures. BUT,
this was the closest we got to dirty;
a shop selling toilet equipment.
The nearest to joints we experienced was a shop hawking these bongs as gifts.
We passed by this promise to horrify and terrify but we wouldn't know since the museum was closed by the time we got there.
And Rosanna decided that the lady in this window, wearing the dress with that huge white bow across her chest must be the most shocking sight for the night. Who in her right mind would wear that? I agreed with her completely.
I was so desperate for something that I bought a dozen of these postcards, spending way too much on something that I would never used. I really should have just saved the money for Arnhem was my last thought before I fell asleep.
Tomorrow we go to Arnhem, if you are still interested.
O yes, and do you want to know what I thought was the most scandalous thing in Amsterdam? It's got to be the name of their public library.